ASTANA -- The Turkic Council has launched a joint tourism project to give travellers the opportunity to visit member nations along the ancient Silk Road.
Officials of the council, whose members include Kazakhstan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan, met August 7-8 in Astana to discuss the implementation of the Modern Silk Road project.
The meeting was attended by the tourism ministers of those countries, along with representatives from the state tourism committees of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, according to the Kazakh Ministry of Culture and Sport.
"Tourists will be able... to visit Turkey Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan in one swoop," Ömer Kocaman, the deputy secretary general of the Turkic Council, told Caravanserai.
"If desired, tourists can choose to visit all these countries, one or several. All the information is presented on the project's website, ModernSilkRoadTour.com," he said.
In the footsteps of ancient travelers
The first tour of the project will take place from August 31-September 6 and will see a group of tourists from Turkey and other countries visiting Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
The trip is set to coincide with the World Nomad Games to take place in the beginning of September in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul. Tourists will be able to see ancient petroglyphs and go swimming in the mountain lake.
In Kazakhstan, tourists will be able to see the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi and ancient Taraz and engage in traditional sports like horseback riding and falconry.
The new vacation package also potentially includes visits to many of Turkey's landmarks, including the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, as well a hot air balloon flight to Cappadocia, according to the Turkic Council.
Such attractions comprise only a small portion of the sights tourists will be able to see in the four countries.
"The Silk Road is comprised of several trade routes that stretched from ... Central Asia to the Mediterranean Sea," Tamila Nurakhmetova, a 27-year-old tour guide from Astana, told Caravanserai.
"These routes existed even before the Current Era [CE], and [this trip] guarantees unforgettable impressions for modern-day tourists," Nurakhmetova said, adding that the Modern Silk Road project includes a 15-day "Grand Tour" trip.
"For example, the bazaar in Istanbul is a popular place for tourists. Caravanserais were built along the entire length of the Silk Road and are now accessible to tourists in restored form," she said.
Developing tourism, intercultural relations
"We personally went to see many of the sights in the vacation package. We were recently in Turkistan Province, Kazakhstan. Tourism is a promising area, and one that is developing rapidly," Ahmet Haluk Dursun, Turkish deputy minister of culture and tourism, told Caravanserai.
The project is not only economically profitable for member countries but also "leads to balance and peace and facilitates the development of inter-cultural relations," he said.
"We will need Kazakh and Kyrgyz tour guides, and training for them will start soon," he said.
"We are waiting for tourists," Baktybek Sekimov, the state secretary of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism, told Caravanserai.
"In Kyrgyzstan, there are 155 health spas, 147 hotels and many historic places, national parks and museums," he noted.
Tourism is one of the central areas of focus for Azerbaijan's economy, Rashad Mamadov, Azerbaijan's ambassador to Kazakhstan, told Caravanserai.
"More than one million tourists visited Azerbaijan over the first six months of 2018. The newly formed State Tourism Agency [of Azerbaijan] is taking all the steps to develop tourism and increase our country's attractiveness for tourists," he said.